Take Off Your Mask for the Border Guard…

… Your Glasses Too.

March 26, 2020,  Sitka Alaska.

Usually I’m a good sleeper, a short sleeper but a good one.  I fall into a deep sleep and 6 and a half hours later my mind is racing with things that need to be done or thoughts that need thinking.  Tuesday night I slept for about 15 hours.  Unheard of.  Perhaps I had been more stressed than I had thought. I was sleeping about 5 hours those last few night on Amsterdam.  But some of that tired is due to the 44 plus hours portal to portal.

As we checked out of the Perth hotel the manager told us we were lucky to get out.  Tomorrow the airport will be mostly closed.  The taxi driver told us we may be his last fare to the airport because he had also heard air traffic in Western Australia was shutting down.  I left a good tip.

The airport had four large clumps of people with lots of empty space between them.  Only four flights, to Auckland, Tokyo, Doha and Dubai.  The international tote board showed tomorrow only flights to Christmas Island and Bali.  That’s it.

The tally board in International departures.

We got checked in, checked out (No mask, no glasses, I wished the border guard good health, he said “With this job?”) and had hand bags inspected (They were overweight, no problem with that tonight.)  All painless, except for the money exchange.  The Australian dollar cost 64 US cents when I changed money on March 7.  I got just under 51 cents exchanging back.  Good thing I paid for cabs with cash.  The woman in the booth said “I guess we depend more on foreign tourists than we thought.” Near the gate the first and business class Emirates passengers were bummed because the Emirates lounge was closed.  This was Monday evening and the airline was shutting down Wednesday morning.

The A380 was fully booked but on final count 20 people were missing, including the whole bulkhead row in front of us.  Those extra legroom seats cost a $150 premium.  I tried to book then when I booked our tickets, sorry, sold out.  We got one extra leg room window seat in the row behind because the window seat in the bulkhead row is missing to accommodate an emergency exit.  So only one of us had an extra legroom seat.  A kind flight attendant seeing the row in front empty invited me to sit there and Suzi to move to the window seat.  This seemed a win-win, both of us had the extra leg room and both of us, plus the guy on the isle in the second row had empty seats next to us.

It was a win-win until about 3 AM.  A very stern lead flight attendant wearing a face mask was shaking me telling me I had to move, I hadn’t paid for that seat.  But “I paid for an extra leg room seat.”

“Not that seat.”  The last time a flight attendant woke me while wearing a mask (an oxygen mask) was on a flight from Minneapolis to Seattle when the plane lost cabin pressure.  I had been asleep and she was trying to cover my nose and mouth with a yellow cup.  That memory sprang back and I was fight flight for most of the rest of that flight.  I said to Suzi “She’s really mean.  She’ll probably become president of Emirates someday.”

“No she won’t, she’s a woman.”  The kind flight attendant apologized.  She was embarrassed, and I suspect had been reprimanded.  I want to write to Emirates tell them exactly how miserable they made the rest of my flight but don’t want to bring attention to the kind attendant who, I fear may, be punished for her kindness.   

It was a beautiful day in Dubai and I took some pics of the city from the terminal.  I used my cell phone to send messages to family telling them we were out of Australia and on the last flight to Seattle before Emirates shut down.  I have no idea who the cell carrier was because where the carrier name should be posted was the command “Stay Home.”

We got on our plane with, again, empty seats.  They held the flight for late connections and when several people who had checked in didn’t show they held the flight again to remove their luggage.  Suzi and I lucked out with empty seats next to each of us.  About midway through the flight I was able to get a little sleep.  One feature of the Emirates entertainment system is a compass that points to the Ka’ba and gives you prayer times.  I figured any prayer would help even it was not my style of prayer.

We arrived in Seattle late, with less than an hour to connect so I was pretty sure that we’d miss our final flight, but an Alaska Airlines agent was at the gate, gave us a big red and orange stripped card, that expedited us through immigration, our luggage came up on a special belt, and we were expedited through customs.  After customs an Alaska agent met us and took our baggage.  They held the flight and we were on our way home.  

During our 44 hours went through security 4 times, once in Perth, twice in Dubai (including a hand search through our bags) and once in Seattle.  Each time we had more liquid in the form of hand sanitizer, than allowed in hand carry, each time the agent told us to keep it and use it.  “Stay healthy.” 

Flight 67 is our home flight, the “milk run” up the coast to Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage.  It’s our flight and we always know people on it.  This was no exception. Yéil Ya-Tseen (Perhaps you know him as the artist Nicholas Galanin) handed me some Clorox wipes to clean our sitting area as he cleaned up his row for his family.  On this particular flight it was easy to practice social distancing.

We stopped in Ketchikan to wave at our mothballed ferry fleet, remember when we had ferries?  Well, now I am home early enough to sign the Governor’s recall petition.  I wonder if I can sign with a red pen like used to cut our ferries.

Our laid up ferries.

Sitka’s sunset gave us a spectacular welcome home.  All our bags made it.  Our friends had left our car in the airport parking lot, when we got home to start our 14 day quarantine our fridge was stocked, there were bags of food on the table, the heat was on and there were suggestions for restaurants that deliver.  My phone started dinging with texts and emails welcoming us home and offering any help.  One friend reminded me that our bags were on belts and handled many times and suggested we leave them in the car overnight, we did until we could get the Lysol out the next day. 

We’re settling in for 14 days.  We had to send out for some mouse traps.  Usually our two cats handle that problem but one died last summer (at 17) and we took the other one to our grandchildren in Minnesota before we left.  Two of them kept each other company between daily visits from friends for play and food while we were gone, but with one — we felt it best to rehome her.  So now we have new mammals sharing our home.  I’d rather have a cat.

But we’re back in community and while we can’t hug our friends we’re close on the phone and on line.  In the next few days, I’ll try to process our experience and make, probably two more posts, one with thoughts on the future of cruising and one savoring the half world cruise that we were fortunate enough to be a part of.

5 thoughts on “Take Off Your Mask for the Border Guard…

  1. I’m so disheartened to read about that mean flight attendant scolding you and making you move. I will always think of her when I hear the name of this airline.

    Glad you are finally home. My sleep schedule is all messed up. And for extra special fun I arrived home with a sore throat and a dry tickled cough that has not yet resolved, making me freaked out that I may have picked up the virus, even though I have no other symptoms and don’t meet the criteria for testing. This is what stress can do when our world has been turned upside down, I guess. Extraordinary times. Living history in the making.

  2. Hi Rich,

    Glad to see that you guys made it home okay, although what an ordeal. I was disappointed to read about your treatment by the Emirates attendant as I’ve always had a good impression of their service. Maybe this whole experience pushed her over the edge; not hard to understand. Have a restful and healthy spring back in Sitka where you obviously have some great friends and neighbords.

    Best regards,

  3. Shertia, I would not be too concerned about a tickley throat just yet, it could be be the dry air on a plane, It happens to me whenever I fly. But please do monitor your health and temp.

  4. Re: the seating on the aircraft.

    My understanding is that they are being ultra strict about folks sitting in the seat they were assigned to, in case at a later date the passenger comes down with the corona-virus, and then they would have to inform the people that had been sitting near them.

    I don’t think it was a personal issue, and once I heard this, in some small way it made sense.

  5. Thanks for that comment. I can see that and it makes sense, But the thing was I was in a row by myself when I was shaken awake, and done so in none too gentle a way.

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